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Right-To-Try Laws For Terminally Ill Patients

Christine Gleason/

"Three states have now passed the so-called "right-to-try" laws in the past two months: Colorado, Missouri and Louisiana now allow terminally ill patients to try experimental drugs, even if they haven't been approved for that use by the FDA. Similar measures are under consideration in several other states. I spoke recently with Sound Medicine's bioethicist Dr. Eric Meslin about how the laws would work," reports Jill Ditmire. 

Dr. Meslin: As you may know, people who are suffering at the end of life of terminal illness and really have nowhere else to go to get medical attention, and everything has pretty much failed for them, do have the ability to apply to the FDA for what's called compassionate use of a medication. It's a somewhat complex regulation and process that they have to go through. And a number of people have been dissatisfied with the pace and the speed that the FDA has been taking to approve some of those compassionate use applications. Some states are now experimenting with what is now being called a "right-to-try" law, letting a lot of that bureaucracy fall by the wayside and let patients find a physician, get permission and get started on one of these experimental medications much more quickly. 

Dr. Eric Meslin is a professor of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine, where he's also the Associate Dean for Bioethics. He's the founding director of the Indiana University Center for Bioethics.